Update 1: 27th June, 2019.
The response to Brutal Delhi has been overwhelming, to say the least. After ArchDaily decided to do a piece on the website, it was flooded with page views and contact-box-replies from architecture enthusiasts and professionals alike, from dozens of different countries. I’ve received a lot of responses from people who are still vehemently opposed to the idea of “preserving” Brutalist architecture, but I’ve had far more people tell me that the website changed their perspective on either Delhi as a city or Brutalism as a movement, and honestly, I don’t think I could ask for more. Being able to make a convincing argument for the preservation of these buildings was always a goal for me, but the driving force behind this project was showcasing the aesthetic and historical value of Brutalist architecture in the Indian context. The fact that so many people have been able to appreciate this fascinating part of our history, and even grown to aesthetically appreciate it, makes it largely successful to me.
That isn’t to say that we should give up the campaign against demolition.
As I read and analysed the countless e-mails, DMs and comments from people who are yet unconvinced of the merits of such buildings, I realised that my perception of the other side of this argument may have been misinformed. An unmistakably large portion of those who disagreed with me did so on aesthetic grounds. These are perfectly rational, equally passionate people who simply don’t see the visual appeal of Brutalism. Another argument that was raised against preservation was that these buildings lack the distinct Indian “influence” that should be present for them to be considered a part of, well, Indian history. There’s no doubt that the works of Le Corbusier and other similar European modernists influenced the architects behind these buildings, but it’s not hard to see the resemblance between Kuldip Singh’s structures and the prism-like sacred architecture of South India, or the idiosyncratic nature of the STC building.
Architectural judgement is deeply rooted in aesthetic preference, and if I can’t change someone’s mind on that aspect of this issue, that’s okay. A central point in my argument in favour of Brutalism was that it is a part of Indian history, regardless of the aesthetic values it reflects. A century from now, your great-grandchildren will have all the same access to landmarks like the Red Fort and Connaught Place as you do, but there’ll be an entire part of our tangible history that’s going to be completely obliterated. Perhaps it’ll be replaced by newer buildings that’ll develop a cultural relevance of their own, or maybe it’ll just be turned into another high-rise living complex. What is almost certain is that this period of our history - one of remarkable economic, social and political progress for an incredibly young nation - will be a sidelined feature of history textbooks and museums, and not something that can be experienced, admired for its bold visual identity, or gauged in its breathtaking scale.
Not in the same way.
P.S. I’m really curious about what people really think about the website, so I’ve made a short feedback survey. Please fill it out if you have the time, as it would be super helpful for future updates!